The name refers to the twelve major islands here, located eastwards from Greece near the coast of Asia Minor. These islands have a very long history going back to the Bronze Age, continuing up through the classical world and the Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman empires. They were even attached to Italy between 1912 and 1947. The tall houses with their multicolored facades aligned side-by-side are typical of the architecture, though each island has its own special personality. Sailing around the archipelago is particularly agreeable because the distances between islands are relatively short. You sometimes see archaeological sites right on the sandy beaches, and there’s always a sheltered creek for a relaxing dip.